Summery Pasta Salad
It's not really summer until I make this salad. It's my mom's recipe, and you won't find it very scientific, but as long as you get what's important--a lot of fresh herbs and vegetables--you can't go wrong. Aren't most pasta salads sort of bland? This one, my friends, is not.
I've been working on using up my pantry supplies before we move, so I used the ziti I had on hand, but my favorite way to make this is with bowtie pasta, mostly because the little bowties please me. I've also made it with brown rice and other whole grains to good effect.
(Sidenote: Today I also made these cornbread muffins and these millet muffins, in an attempt to use up cornmeal and millet from my panty, and they were both awesome, but the second ones--from 101 Cookbooks--are probably my new favorite. Oh my word, were they good. I pretty much want to be Heidi Swanson when I grow up. And I pretty much think all baked goods should have millet in them. Can't beat that perky little crunch. Also, do you own Super Natural Every Day? I'm thinking of just cooking every recipe in there. It's never done me wrong, and I find looking through it soothing and inspiring when I'm culinarily stuck. End lengthy sidenote.)
Back to the salad. Here's what you need:
Mama's Summery Pasta Salad
1/2 pound pasta (I've also used rice and other whole grains.)
A few cups of protein (chicken is used here, since we had some cooked to use up, but I bet it would be good with beans (chickpeas?) or tofu
A few fresh and gorgeous summer vegetables (Pictured here: 1 red pepper, 1 onion, 2 small zucchini, small container of mushrooms.)
Dressing: 2 parts olive oil, 1 part rice vinegar (I don't think I'd try another vinegar here), a big handful of fresh basil, a big handful of fresh cilantro, a good-sized clove of garlic, a bit of mustard (for emulsifier) salt, pepper, sweetener (I used stevia, because I can't taste it when I use the good stuff, but sugar would work fine.)
Here's what you do:
Prepare the protein however you need to; prepare the pasta. Sauté the veggies in a bit of olive oil. I added a bit of salt so they wouldn't turn brown, but you don't need to worry about seasoning them much. Soften the onion, but don't overcook the rest. You want them to still have some bite.
To make the dressing: I used about 4 ounces of olive oil, 2 ounces of vinegar, and some more water to thin things out a bit at the end. The key to homemade dressing is not to skimp on salt or sweetener, in my opinion. I thought I couldn't make them as well as my sisters and my mom, until I figured out I was being too shy. This is for a big bowl. Don't be shy. And maybe it's obvious, but be prepared for the dressing to come out bright green. It's the best part of this salad, I think. You feel like you're eating a long summer day.
I hope you love it. Let me know if you give it a try.